Messaging Mania: Just When You Thought UC Was the Answer

Rethinking Communications

Messaging Mania: Just When You Thought UC Was the Answer

By Jon Arnold, Principal, J Arnold & Associates  |  January 16, 2017

What do you do when…

  • 80 percent of Skype (News - Alert) for Business users say that communication has improved because of real-time messaging,
  • 77 percent of all end users say the same,
  • 75 percent of millennials would take text over voice if they could choose only one mode for their mobile phones,
  • 71 percent of SMBs do not plan to invest in a new phone system,
  • 56 percent believe messaging will displace email as their primary communications application, and
  • 22 percent don’t know or care whether IT has approved their messaging application?

These are just a few data points from current research cited during a panel that I spoke on at a recent conference about enterprise messaging (sources gladly provided upon request). Any one of these speaks to a fundamental shift in how people communicate – both at home and at work – and very much reflects the spirit of this column. Over the past few years, I’ve covered several communications modes here, and the time is right to examine a new one: messaging.

Understanding the Digital Divide

I’m posing the above as questions, because they provide due cause to rethink communications, both in terms of focus on specific applications, as well as your overall focus on making the organization more agile. In the course of my research, I’ve come to refer to this as the digital divide, based mainly on the generational differences between digital immigrants and digital natives. The dividing line is roughly 1990, when the internet started to become real, and is now the defining technology for everyone born from that time on.

When it comes to communications, the fundamental shift is the move from telephony to messaging as the preferred mode among digital natives, aka millennials. Viewed another way, this is a shift from voice to text, and viewed yet another way, it’s a shift from real-time to near real-time. All of these have implications for how businesses need to look at communications solutions, especially since the trend is to invest in integrated platforms that pull all these modes together, as opposed to investing in standalone applications with no overall strategy.

The digital divide is real, but many businesses haven’t caught up to it, and still think in terms of telephony and legacy technologies to support their employees. As touched on above, digital natives clearly have different expectations, and so long as the status quo continues, this divide will persist and even widen. Change does not come easily, but the market has responded, and has reached enough critical mass now where IT needs to recognize that UC is not the ultimate solution for everyone.

CPaaS is Today’s Version of UC

Coming back to the question – what to do? – this is where businesses need to get up to speed on CPaaS, or communications platform as a service. If UC were invented today from the ground up, it would look more like this.

In short, CPaaS has three characteristics:

  • Cloud-based – It only comes in one flavor; not premises-based or hybrid.
  • Web-based consumption model – Like other forms of software, it’s license-based, and is consumed as-a-service – not owned and operated by IT.
  • The focus is on user-centric applications, built by developers rooted in the web world, not telephony.

Given how digital natives communicate differently from their predecessors, it’s not surprising to see that CPaaS offerings are messaging-centric, not voice-centric. Telephony can certainly be part of CPaaS, but it’s not the driver. The real driver is the ability of CPaaS to leverage APIs and embed communications into business applications and processes. This is very different from UC, where the value is based around enabling multiple modes of communication in a singular platform.

For the first time, vendors other than those from the telecom world that we know so well can offer various solutions that fall under the CPaaS banner. This where the disruption comes into play, because the pure play CPaaS providers are from outside the communications space, yet have the DNA to bring a UC-style experience to market based on the applications most preferred by digital natives.

In some cases, these companies serve the enterprise, while others are more focused on the contact center. This space is moving quickly, but prime examples include Twilio (News - Alert), WEBTEXT,, Facebook, and even SAP. These are not likely on your radar, but are very much at the vanguard of where CPaaS is going.

The familiar players are not sitting idle, and have made their share of moves to acquire CPaaS capabilities. Hopefully, these are on your radar, and if not, here’s what you need to know. In no particular order, Cisco acquired Tropo, Avaya developed Zang, Vonage (News - Alert) acquired Nexmo, GENBAND developed Kandy, and ShoreTel acquired Corvisa. Others are coming, and the point is that the market is clearly on the CPaaS bandwagon.

This isn’t to say that UC’s time has passed, but rather, CPaaS has come to market as a reflection of how digital natives work, communicate, and collaborate. If you’re struggling to address those needs in your company, and are only looking at UC for a solution, then it’s clearly time for a rethink.

Jon Arnold (News - Alert) is principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent telecom analyst and marketing consultancy with a focus on IP communications, and writes the Analyst 2.0 blog. Previously, he was the VoIP program leader at Frost & Sullivan.

Edited by Alicia Young